I predict my adopted home state of Indiana — and there’s a line I never dreamed I’d write before I got here — will be among the last, if not the very last, to legalize recreational pot.
Even if our state legislature wasn’t so overly-populated by prudes and prigs who think the 1936 panic flick, “Reefer Madness,” was a documentary, I’d be skeptical the Indy statehouse gang would be capable of much lawmaking that made sense. It is, after all, a body from which emerged our current state attorney general, Todd Rokita, who choreographed a persecution campaign against a Hoosier OB-GYN doctor for performing an abortion on a ten-year-old girl who’d been raped. Turns out the criminal case the AG lusted for against the doctor for actually performing the procedure wouldn’t have held much water, so he fell back on the state Medical Licensing Board to reprimand her and fine her $3000 for violating the ten-year-old’s privacy.
See, Dr. Bernard had told a reporter about the case during a pro-abortion rally soon after the procedure. Like any reasonable human being, the doctor pointed out the lunacy of forcing a child to carry and deliver the fetus of her rapist. Many states of late have outlawed virtually all abortions, even those following criminal acts like rape and incest. The state from which the child came was Ohio, which already had outlawed abortion in almost every case, including hers. So, the kid and her caretaker crossed the state line into Indiana to prevent her from becoming a pre-teen mother. Rokita and any number of anti-abortionists went gaga and portrayed Bernard as a blood-thirsty baby killer. Since Indiana at the time had yet to outlaw abortion (following the US Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade) the best Rokita and company could do was enter a blot on Bernard’s record as a professional and lighten her wallet. Funny thing is, Bernard had never even mentioned the child’s name or revealed any info on her other than she was 10, from out of state, and raped, but that was good enough for the board to rule against her.
The board, by the way, is headed by a fellow named Dr. John Strobel, who specializes in electro-cardiology. In fact, he surgically implanted a defibrillator in my chest nearly a decade ago. He’s a fine practitioner in his field but is also an outspoken opponent of abortion, having taken to the streets to rail against it. The deck, pretty much, was stacked against Caitlin Bernard.
Many on the anti-abortion Right are more offended by the fact that the rapist in this case was, as they describe him, an “illegal immigrant.” The change.org petition linked to in the preceding sentence reads, in part, “It looks like Former President Donald J. Trump was right that Latin America isn’t always sending their best” to this country. The petition also claims the “abortion industry” is a front for a massive sexual abuse cabal.
And people wonder what I mean when I say the worst thing about democracy is the people.
The Bernard case is just the latest weirdness this state’s lawmakers and enforcers have perpetrated. Here’s another from the legislature’s benighted past: back in 2016 — the year that gave us President-elect Trump — the Indiana Senate and House passed a bill forbidding municipalities from banning single-use plastic bags. You, know, those billions and billions of items clogging up our waterways, creating artificial islands in the oceans, strangling gulls and terns and sea turtles and other critters, and, overall, imperiling the environmental health of the planet. Liberal outposts like Bloomington seemed poised to ban plastic bags, as many other cities and the state of California already had done so, but the Indiana statehouse moved quickly to quash that impulse. There’s little the Indiana Senate and House finds more pleasurable than stifling the urges of this state’s few progressive enclaves.
That might seem a bizarre thing to take pleasure in. And it is. It can be argued that if our prudish and priggish state legislators were amenable to more earthy pleasures like getting baked, they’d be less prone to obsessively try to punish places like Bloomington for being…, well, Bloomington.
More than a hundred years ago, this nation embarked on a crazy, and ultimately failed, attempt to stop people from drinking booze. The only things that resulted from the 13-years-long experiment were the populace’s enhanced thirst for the forbidden stuff and the establishment of a powerful organized crime syndicate. For whatever reason, today there still are many Americans who want cannabis to remain illegal. As if that, in itself, might deter many people from indulging in the drug. Many more, though, want decriminalization.
Just this past month, Minnesota became the 23rd state to allow people over the age of 21 to possess and use recreational marijuana. Some 37 states have legalized the use of medical marijuana. Yet marijuana is still listed as a Schedule I controlled substance, along with heroin and LSD, by the federal government. Joe Biden promised to support decriminalization during his 2020 run for the presidency. Better than 9 of ten respondents to a 2021 Pew Research poll were in favor of some form of decriminalization. All signs point to an eventual blanket end to pot prohibition, not necessarily tomorrow or next week but some day.
Indiana’s surrounded on three sides by states that allow recreational use. Kentucky, Indiana’s fourth neighbor, still outlaws it. On the other hand, that state continues to honor Jefferson Davis, who was born there but moved elsewhere to eventually lead an armed rebellion against the United States. An estimated 620,000 people were killed in the US Civil War, more than the total number of deaths in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War combined.
Count the Kentucky legislature among those who might benefit from taking a puff or two the next time they meet..